Turkish justice minister warns of anti-US sentiment

Turkey’s justice minister has said that Anti-American sentiment among Turks is on the rise and will only be calmed if the US extradites the Muslim cleric whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating last month’s failed coup.

Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan blames Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers for the coup on July 15 in which more than 240 people were killed and nearly 2,200 wounded.

Turkey has launched a series of mass purges of suspected Gulen supporters in its armed forces, other state institutions, universities, schools, and the media since the abortive coup, prompting Western concerns for the stability of a key Nato ally.

Mr Erdogan, who visited Russia yesterday, accused the US and the EU of lacking solidarity with Turkey over the coup, and of caring more for the rights of people he views as traitors.

“There is a serious anti-American feeling in Turkey, and this is turning into hatred,” justice minister Bekir Bozdag said in a live TV interview with state-run Anadolu Agency.

“It is in the hands of the United States to stop this anti-American feeling leading to hatred.”

Responding to Turkey’s demand for Mr Gulen’s extradition, US president Barack Obama said Ankara must first provide clear evidence of wrongdoing.

Last week, a State Department spokesman said Washington was evaluating new documents it had received.

Mr Gulen, 75, who built up a network of schools, charities, and businesses in Turkey and abroad over decades, denies involvement in the coup and condemned it.

He also accused Erdogan of using the coup to amass greater powers.

“Whether the US extradites Gulen or not this will be a political decision,” said Mr Bozdag. “If he is not extradited, Turkey will have been sacrificed for a terrorist.”

A recent opinion poll showed two thirds of Turks agree with their president that Mr Gulen was behind the coup plot.

Turkey has been holding almost daily mass rallies since July 15 in support of democracy and the government and against the plotters.

Authorities have suspended, detained or put under investigation tens of thousands of people in the armed forces, the judiciary, civil service and elsewhere since the coup, in which a faction of the military commandeered warplanes, helicopters, and tanks in an attempt to topple the government.

Yesterday, Mr Bozdag put the number of people now formally arrested awaiting trial at 16,000, adding that a further 6,000 detainees were still being processed. Another 7,668 people are under investigation but have not been detained, he said.

Since the abortive putsch, pro-government papers have been awash with conspiracy theories accusing the US and the CIA of being the coup masterminds.


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